I had to make some pretty big decisions last week. Some were about people (how do we best make some things happen). Some about projects (which do we continue or slow down). And some were just about me (where and when to invest my time). We all do this every week. Every day in fact. We all have decisions we have to make. Some are big, some small. Some are only about us. Others involve others.
Some of our decisions are easy and some are more complicated. Last week I would say that mine were average overall. Some straightforward and some easy. Some of small significance…some with major implications.
At the end of the week I was visiting a partner of ours in Europe. We were discussing portfolio progress and performance. We heard how this partner has dramatically improved their performance (measured by project success) over the last few years – an improvement I was delighted to see we had contributed to in our own way.
‘Dramatic improvement’ always makes me sit up and take notice. No matter what the subject may be. I am always interested and want to understand what action or actions lead to a ‘dramatic improvement’. And so, of course, I duly asked our hosts the question – what has been the key to this improvement?
And the first words in reply? Better decision making! Wow!
I was as impressed as I was surprised. The normal answers to this sort of question are based on a new technology, or a new assay and sometimes better processes…but seldom is the given answer ‘decision making’.
There is an often quoted statistic about the moment any project reaches a key decision point. If the decision to advance or stop is made by the project team, they will decide to advance in 65% of cases. Conversely if the same decision is made by an independent team exposed to the same data, they will decide to stop in 65% of cases.
This resonates with me. There is always so much motivation to advance projects…we tend to reward and recognise project progression; we celebrate project champions; goals feature successful progression of projects. And conversely there is seldom recourse for incorrect progression.
I am always most interested in our more complicated and significant decision points. Moments where no matter how much data and information we may have, it is never complete and is always conflicting. Moments where we know it will be years before we find out if our choice was right or wrong. Such decision making is seldom simple.
As I flew back to the UK, I wondered more about the quality of big decision making itself? Who is responsible for a decision? Who else is involved? What data are available? Or not available? Who is accountable? How independent are they? How passionate? How rational? What process is used? What record is kept?
Just as we came into land, the idea of “Truth-Seeking” came to mind. Truth-Seeking – where the remit of teams would be to simply uncover the truth; truth that in turn would hopefully enable the right decision – with minimal cost and time – at any decision point.
We could measure and reward our teams on their ability to uncover the truth – truth that enables decision making. And recognition would to be for quality decision making based on truth…rather than based on outcome.
On my drive home, my mind drifted back to my own decisions this week. How much ‘truth’ did I have when I made those decisions? How much was I focussed on desired outcome?
How would I assess my own performance…how will I improve…?